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On 19 December 2012, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs briefed the Security Council on the latest developments on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. He expressed the grave concern and disappointment of the Secretary-General at the Israeli announcement of approvals for 3,000 housing units in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and, most alarmingly, in the E-1 area, and the acceleration of other settlement construction. He recalled that settlement construction in the West Bank violated international law and was an obstacle to peace and urged the Government of Israel to heed the wide international calls to rescind these plans.
He called on Israel to resume the Palestinian revenue transfers without delay, affirming the importance of direct talks to resolve any outstanding financial claims. He expressed the continued concern about the approximately 4,400 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention centres. He noted that the calm in Gaza brokered by Egypt on 21 November had largely held, but that it remained tenuous.
The Under-Secretary-General stated that the General Assembly vote of 29 November 2012 symbolized the growing international impatience with the longstanding occupation and a resounding endorsement of Palestinian aspirations to live in freedom and dignity in an independent State of their own, and side by side with Israel in peace and security. He added that there remained no substitute for negotiations for the two-State solution and that it was vital that the parties avoid confrontational statements and negative steps that further complicated a return to negotiations.
With regard to the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Under-Secretary-General stressed that the conflict was in its twenty-second month and that violence and military confrontation had escalated dangerously. He added that during their recent respective visits to the region, the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General had witnessed first-hand the dire situation of the Syrian refugees. He noted that while it was important that the neighbours of the Syrian Arab Republic continue to allow those fleeing violence in the Syrian Arab Republic to enter their countries, helping those countries cope with the situation and address the needs of the refugees must be a priority for the international community. He indicated that long-standing fears that the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic would seriously threaten the stability and security of its neighbours had intensified.
The Under-Secretary-General said that the situation in Lebanon remained severely affected by the Syrian crisis. The situation in the area of operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon remained generally quiet and Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace continued on an almost daily basis.
In the following consultations of the whole, many Security Council members called for the prompt resumption of direct negotiations and expressed their sincere hope that 2013 would be decisive for the two-State solution. They encouraged all relevant actors to spare no efforts to this end.
A number of delegations expressed serious concern at the increasing construction of the illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, in particular in East Jerusalem, and called upon Israel to put an end to them. Some delegations welcomed the adoption of General Assembly resolution 67/19, which accorded “non-member observer State” status to Palestine. Other delegations stated that negotiations remained the only path to establish a Palestinian State. A number of delegations expressed concern over the situation of thousands of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons. Some members called upon Israel to release Palestinian tax revenues. Other Security Council members called on Israel to halt all the illegal activities aimed at changing the demographic, religious and cultural character of the holy city of Jerusalem. Some members made reference to the blockade of Gaza.
On the subject of the Syrian Arab Republic, Security Council members expressed their serious concern at the growing violence and the increasing numbers of casualties, especially among women and children. Many delegations called for a political solution to the Syrian crisis and expressed their support for the efforts of the Joint Special Representative. Council members expressed concern at the political, security, humanitarian and economic implications of the Syrian crisis on its neighbours and called upon the international community to assist them in facing these challenges.